This weekend, the Denver Center Theatre flings open the doors to the sixth annual Colorado New Play Summit, welcoming playwrights, actors, directors, dramaturges, producers, agents and theatre buffs from around the nation. The lovefest brings theatrical innovation center stage with readings of new works by commissioned and selected playwrights; full productions of plays culled from the 2010 Summit; and a panel discussion, Theatre in HD, exploring technology's emerging place in the theatre.
I've spent the past four days in rehearsal with playwright Lisa Loomer, director Wendy Goldberg, and a cast of thirteen, as we worked through her latest offering, Two Things You Don't Talk About At Dinner. The play takes place in Los Angeles, as a group of old friends and new gather to celebrate a Passover Seder, and opposing viewpoints are sandwiched together like charoset and maror. As we moved from rehearsal hall to stage, I asked Lisa Loomer what she had gained this week. She told me, "The beauty of the summit is that it is all about the writer, with actor, director and crew fluidly adapting to rewrites and revisions great or small. They give you the resources and the right amount of time to really tune in to the play. With smaller pieces it's easier to hear the music of what I've written, but with thirteen characters it's much harder to track, like the difference between a chamber piece and an orchestral piece. Having the support of the theatre, Wendy, and a group of talented actors who've been properly cast has been a great gift. It has really helped the play find its voice."
There are many opportunities for writers to hear their scripts read in front of an audience, but the stakes are raised a mile high by the Denver Center's commitment to new works as the 2011 Summit readings are considered for inclusion in the 2012 season. Joining Ms. Loomer are Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale), Lloyd Suh (The Great Wall Story), returning writer Octavio Solis (Cecilia Marie), and a debut performance of An Extraordinary Demonstration of Nikola Tesla's Most Recent Discoveries by Denver's award-winning Buntport Theatre.
The vibe of this whirlwind festival is electric, the excitement palpable, as the round robin readings hold the possibility of tomorrow's Broadway hit or Pulitzer Prize. Currently running at the Center are world-premiere productions of Michele Lowe's Map of Heaven and The Catch by Ken Weitzman, and the theatre complex is abuzz with readings, receptions, communal meals and the late-night Playwrights' Slam.
Over the week, I've spoken with New Play Summit participants Michele Lowe, Erin Rollman (Buntport), and Denver Center Theatre Associate Artistic Director Bruce K Sevy in a series of podcasts. Hear in their words why Denver is the center of the new play universe.